New Zealand’s opposition has moved to sack an MP who leaked the private details of Kiwis with COVID-19 to the media.
Opposition leader Todd Muller has written to his party’s board, asking them to disendorse Hamish Walker, the Clutha-Southland MP, for his part in the scandal.
Mr Walker received confidential information from a former party boss, Michelle Boag, and then shared it with at least three media outlets, saying he wanted to show vulnerabilities in the government’s information storage.
None chose to publish the information.
Mr Muller, leader of National, called the behaviour “completely unacceptable” and wrote to his party’s board asking them to consider his membership.
“This is not the National party I lead,” he told Radio NZ.
“It’s not the culture I expect from my team and bluntly there needs to be consequences.”
The scandal is a further setback for National ahead of the September 19 election, already well behind in the polls as it challenges Jacinda Ardern’s Labour for government.
Deepening Mr Muller’s embarrassment, prior to discovering his own MP was the source of the leak, the opposition leader attacked the government for it, saying it was “a reminder these guys can’t manage important things well”.
National’s party board will consider Mr Walker’s membership on Wednesday.
Mr Walker has retained legal advice and says he has not committed a criminal offence.
The government had already announced an inquiry into the leak, and State Services Minister Chris Hipkins said it had “a ring of dirty politics about it”.
In a plot twist, Radio NZ also reports Mr Walker sent them the advice in an attempt to back up a previous claim of Mr Walker’s which was derided as racist.
Mr Walker argued against the expansion of mandatory isolation facilities into his electorate, which are compulsory for Kiwis arriving home from abroad.
“These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea,” he said, comments that were widely interpreted as a dog-whistle.
Mr Walker then offered to prove his allegations to Radio NZ by supplying the confidential information – contradicting his public claim that he did so to show up government weaknesses.
Ms Boag, who was National party president two decades ago, has resigned as Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust acting chief executive for her part in the scandal.
Australian Associated Press